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When God Wakes Up… Psalm 78:40-72 June 7, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Judgment, Mercy, Psalms, Religion, Sermons.
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WHEN GOD WAKES UP (Psalm 78:40-72)
THEME: God’s Purposes in the Lives of Sinful Men are Eternal.
The idea for the title of this sermon is found in verse 65. This portion of Psalm 78 portrays a God who has forsaken His people. They have rebelled against Him, generation after generation. Finally, God says, you are on your own. After a long period in which it seems that God has forsaken His people, God wakes up. Not literally, we know that God does not sleep. He is always aware. Verse 65 says that God’s sudden action was as if God had just woken up. The next phrase makes it even more vivid. God’s sudden action is like a drunken giant, a man of war, roaring in wrath against His enemies.
These are images that we are too refined today to use but I want us to keep them in mind. God will accomplish His purposes and when it becomes evident that God is accomplishing His purposes in the lives of His people it will be with overwhelming power and might.
God shows both wrathful judgment and loving mercy in His dealings with men (verses 40-64). Before we look at the verses, we need to remind ourselves that God’s wrath and God’s mercy are always tied together. When God put Adam and Eve out of the garden, doomed to death; He promised that Eve would have a seed that would destroy the power of the evil one. When God destroyed the world with water, one man found grace in God’s eyes and eight people, Noah and his extended family, were saved in the ark. We see this truth set forth in the following verses.
His judgment serves the purpose of redeeming His people from the enemy’s enslavement (verses 40-51). Notice what Asaph writes (verse 42), “He redeemed them (Israel) from the enemy.” Specifically, God ransomed or redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. Now how did God do this? Did He give Pharaoh great riches in exchange for His people? Did He allow Pharaoh to conquer other nations and extend His political power as a ransom for Israel’s release? Now, the price Pharaoh had to pay was a terrible price. It was the price of judgment.
These judgment are described for us in verses 43-51. God began by turning the great Nile River and all the streams flowing into it into blood. As a result, the fish in the rivers died and the river stank. Exodus 7:18 says that the Egyptians would grow weary of drinking blood polluted by dead fish but Exodus 7:22-23 tells us that Pharaoh’s heart was not moved. The ransom price of judgment was not yet high enough.
Then God began to send other judgments. He sent a plague of frogs. This had to be a miracle because all the tadpoles had just died. Pharaoh began to bargain with God, “Pray to God to take the frogs away and I will let the people go.” But when suddenly the frogs died, Pharaoh changed His mind (Exodus 8:14-15).
When God sent the swarms of flies, Pharaoh came to the bargaining table again (Exodus 8:24-29), “Can’t you sacrifice to God in Egypt?” Moses said, “Nope.” “Well then, go but don’t go far.” Moses prayed to God, God took the flies away, and Pharaoh backed off of His offer again.
God sent hail and fire and frost to destroy the crops and the cattle left in the field. Pharaoh said, “I have sinned,” but when the hail stopped, he sinned even more by refusing to let God’s people go (Exodus 9:27-34).
Eventually, Pharaoh drove Moses out of his presence but when God brought locusts on the land, he begged for Moses to come and said, “I have sinned,” but when the locusts were gone, so was Pharaoh’s repentance and he did not let God’s people go (Exodus 10:11-20).
During all this time, there were four other plagues that God sent on Egypt and other ways in which Pharaoh tried to bargain but then God put His final offer on the table, the death angel, killing the firstborn of every house and in every stable in Egypt (Exodus 12:29) except for those who obeyed the command of God in putting the blood on the doorpost. Pharaoh said, there is no reason more to bargain. You may go. That is how God redeemed, ransomed, Israel out of slavery in Egypt. The price paid for God’s people was God’s wrath on Egypt.
His care serves the purpose of establishing His eternal possession (verses 52-55). These people were slaves. Why would God show such concern for them. Asaph writes that God guided them like a shepherd guides his sheep, protecting them from all danger, even to the point of destroying Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. Why? That God has show great judgment on Egypt and great love to Israel. Why?
I can imagine Asaph, the first time he sings this psalm before the people. He tells them that they are going to learn something life transforming. He reminds them of past rebellion against God. He reminds them of God’s mercy and judgment down through history. Then he takes his cymbals and gives a mighty clang and declares, “And He brought them to His holy border.” Then he looks around at the mountain on which the tabernacle sits and on which he is leading God’s people in their service before them and clangs the cymbal again and shouts, “This mountain which His right hand had acquired.” This is where God has chosen to meet with man. This is where God has place His name. This is the center of the universe. This is God’s home on earth forever. This land is God’s land and He has given it to us and established us in it. Can you imagine that? What a song service!
God’s purposes involve more than just judgment and mercy. God wants to dwell among men in glory. He accomplishes that purpose through His care for His people.
His temporary rejection of His people serves the purpose of calling them to repentance (verses 56-64). “Yet…” It seems that God’s purposes are frustrated. All the things that the first generation in the wilderness had done, they did also. They were like a deceitful bow. God’s aim was dead on but they missed the mark every time. Even their worship, their submission to God was polluted by their tendency to go their own way, going to high places instead of to the tabernacle to worship, taking images and saying this is Jehovah-God (verse 58). Even some began to worship other gods according to the book of Judges. Finally, God said, I have had enough. You are on your own.
So God in His anger forsook them. We have this recorded in the early chapters of 1 Samuel. The Philistines were coming against Israel. The leaders decided that if they had the ark of the covenant with them, they would win the battle. After all, that was the presence of God among men. When they went into battle, not only were they defeated but the priests, Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s sons were killed, and the ark was captured by the Philistines. When news came back, the shock of the ark’s capture caused Eli to fall of his seat and because of his weight, in falling broke his neck and died. The youth of the nation were destroyed in that battle. A generation of young men and young women bore the brunt of God’s wrath, just as happened with that first generation in Egypt.
The picture of what happened though is best told in verse 64. Suddenly, the ark was gone and the adult priests were dead. One of them, Phinehas, had a wife who was bearing a baby into the world as the word came of Israel’s defeat, the ark’s capture, and her husband’s death. She bore her son and named him, Ichabod, meaning “the glory has departed.” God has forsaken us, she recognized. There is no glory more in Israel. What an awful name. What an important reminder. When God forsakes man, there is no glory.
But then God woke up…
Now, God’s inactivity is simply the precursor of unrestrained intervention (verses 65-72).
His judgment is again decisive in its purpose (verses 65-66). The Philistines, after winning their mighty battle brought the ark into Ashdod, into the temple of their god, Dagon. The next morning, Dagon, the statute god, was face down, bowed in submission, in worship, of the unseen God of Israel. The set Dagon up and the next morning, not only was he bowed before the ark but his head and palms were broken off. Outside of the temple, God struck the men with burning tumors of some type, perhaps some type of debilitating hemmhroid. Everywhere they moved the ark, the plague of burning tumors followed. God brought them down in His anger toward them.
His choices are eternal in their purpose (verses 67-69). Shortly afterward, God made a choice. The leading tribe had always been Ephraim. It had been the biggest and strongest and most centrally located of all the tribes. It had received the birthright of the firstborn from Joseph. The house of God, Bethel was in their land. The tabernacle of Shiloh had also been in Ephraim. God said, I have picked out somewhere better, Jerusalem. The mountain there is where my name will become great and will be established forever. There is just one problem. Jerusalem is not even under Israelite control. The Jebusites live there and the mountain fortress city is strong. What will God do?
His servant will accomplish His purposes (verses 70-72).
Asaph has taken the people through a long history lesson. They know these stories. Now they know what it is that God is doing. God chose David. David brought the glory of God, the ark of the covenant back to Israel. David led his people with righteous wisdom. David put God back on the pedestal, where He belongs. Asaph is saying, “God knows what He is doing and He is doing it right! Set your hope in God, get your strength from Him! He will do as He has promised.”
Do you hope, do you get your strength from a merciful God. Yes, He is a God of judgment and yes, He is to be feared but for those whose faith is in God, there is hope in the purposes of God to redeem His people. He would redeem you also, if you will trust Him. Jesus said, “I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life a ransom for many.” 1 Timothy 2:5 reminds us that there is One God and One Mediator between God and man, the man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all…” You do not need to bargain like Pharaoh did. Trust Christ today!
Next week’s sermon: LESSONS FROM CREATION: WHO GOD IS AND WHY IT MATTERS (Romans 1:16-25)

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1. Resources for Exodus 7:22 - 23 - February 9, 2012

[…] 1When God Wakes Up… Psalm 78:40-72 « Eternally Significant SUBMIT […]


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